Technically, children are not required to be in school until kindergarten, when they are four or five years old. Yet, most children will be a part of some sort of childcare program before that, whether it’s nursery school or pre-K. Indeed, the first few years of life are incredibly formative, with millions of new neurons and connections forming constantly. But many kids don’t attend programs where early childhood learning is promoted.
Shockingly, children now spend about seven and half hours in front of one screen or another. While it is true that many shows, programs, and games are educational, many are not, or are passive in a way that does not promote the absorption of knowledge in children.
Even the term “early childhood education” can be vague and undefined. For instance, the National Association for the Education of Young Children defines it as high-quality programming geared towards children from birth to the third grade. Some university programs are expanding their definitions to include infant and toddler learning techniques. But many states and most federal programs focus on preschool or prekindergarten children.
Many professionals believe that children who participated in early childhood learning programs had longer attention spans and fewer behavioral problems later in life. Children who attend those types of programs also go on to achieve high rates of high school and college graduation. Indeed, before the age of eight, and especially before a child starts elementary school, they are learning and developing mentally, emotionally, and socially in ways that will inform their schooling, their relationships, and even their careers, further down the line.
The key is laying a foundation in early childhood development: of course children will not learn all they need to know at such an early age, but they will develop the skills needed to do so. By learning to play, work, and interact with other children and adults outside of their family circle, they are practicing how to act in school and life in only a few years. Plus, the earlier they are around childhood education specialists, the sooner any problems or developmental impediments can be discovered. Preschool activities geared towards fostering curiosity and problem solving set up children to succeed in their new year at kindergarten.